What’s Right with Kansas: Kathleen Sebelius

Back in June, the Washington Post did a two-part series on Kathleen Sebelius as potential VP: The Case For and The Case Against. The case for Sebelius is pretty strong: she comes from the famous state that demographically “ought” to vote differently than it does, she’s managed to appeal to Republicans and independent voters during a period when partisanship was at an all time high, and she’s actually tangled with the health care industry as Insurance Commissioner in Kansas, making unpopularly anti-monopolistic decisions in the face of strong disapproval.

Since that WaPo evaluation, however, everyone has concluded that the strongest case is the case against her. That case is twofold. First, she doesn’t have the foreign policy experience necessary to counter-balance Obama’s domesticity (so therefore he should pick Wesley Clark or Colin Powell.) Second, choosing a white woman who’s not Hillary Clinton is a snub to Clinton’s supporters.

I just don’t understand this second point. If it’s true, it stikes me as bad judgment: Clinton’s supporters want to see a woman in the White House, presumably in part because there is a ‘glass ceiling’ preventing strong, intelligent women from becoming political and corporate executives, and they would like someone to break it. A woman VP is one step towards a woman President. Yet they’ve also declared that the ‘glass ceiling’ can only be broken by one woman, who rose to prominence in part because of the patronymic she shares with her husband. (Don’t get me wrong, Sebelius is no stranger to familial political connections: her father John J. Gilligan, was governor of Ohio. That said, she’s governor and the other Sebelius, her husband, is only a federal magistrate judge.) The sentiment that nominating Sebelius would be a betrayal suggests that Hillary Clinton’s efforts cannot be allowed to make a path for some other woman. If Clinton put 18 million cracks in the ceiling, no other woman is allowed to finally break through. So then it’s not about women as a class at all!

I must admit that I’m confused. It looks to me like either the pollsters and pundits got this one wrong, or the Clinton supporters did.





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